As a couple, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I thought it would be perfect timing to use today’s post as a public love letter, a virtual “toast”, to my favorite partner in crime dine.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have such a funny, supportive, and understanding partner that has always been there for me – as someone to vent to after my initial diagnosis, as a dining partner through my super sad-fun glutenspringa, as a “responsible adult” to take me home after my endoscopy, as an über advocate whenever we dine out, and the master of fun distraction during times when everything gets super dark. Without even knowing it, Jay has been a living how-to guide on how to support your celiac-partner. So, for anyone looking for a little guidance on how to do just that, here’s a little primer.
1. Celebrate what your partner *can* still enjoy. For instance – margaritas are completely gluten-free! We’ve eaten a LOT of Mexican food in the past few years, since many times it’s the only option I feel safe eating. There’s only been a few instances where I’ve gotten an eye roll from Jay, as a silent way of saying, “Mexican, AGAIN?” For a guy who tries to avoid corn, it means a lot to me that he will share all the nachos, tacos, and enchiladas so that I can enjoy a meal without worrying about getting glutened.
2. Just be there – especially when we are grouchy and hangry at the rest of the world who can eat anything. As a bread-loving, recovering pastry chef, being diagnosed with celiac disease turned my world upside down. There were are a lot of days where I am completely bummed out because I can’t easily meet our friends for brunch (one of the trickiest meals to avoid gluten for me), go to our (old) favorite local pub for dinner, or just grab a classic $0.99 NYC slice after a few cocktails. Sometimes, just grabbing my hand without even saying a word just helps me know that he has my back. It helps if that hand is leading me to tasty gluten free eats. Jay has started a map on his phone of all the spots in NYC and beyond where we’ve found excellent gluten-free eats, and also downloaded the Find Me Gluten Free app for hangry-Jen emergencies.
3. Indulge your partner in things they love. Non-food related things that your partner loves will definitely help distract from focusing on everything that has been taken away by celiac disease. While we were in Portland, OR this past summer on part of my #Feasting40 birthday trip, I was super excited to finally shop at Powells Books, the largest independent bookstore in the world. I have been a book nerd for a long time, and have bought and sold at Powells.com, but I had no idea how absorbed I would get when I finally got to enter into this supreme wonderland of books. Not only did Jay indulge me for almost 3 hours(!), but he also had a sense of humor while we were browsing. (In case you were wondering, Bettina’s Best Recipes are definitely not gluten-free, and I didn’t buy the book.) 🙂
4. Be adventurous, and be their advocate. I was pretty adamant from the very beginning that celiac disease wasn’t going to stop me from dining out, which is one of our favorite things to do as a couple. I can easily turn into a creature of habit (see #1 with my love of Mexican), but Jay helps me keep my adventurous spirit alive. Exploring our borough, greater NYC, and the world as gluten-free diners is definitely an adventure! We don’t always find winners, but when we do (like with the insanely huge and delicious dosas at Dosa Royale) it’s like winning a mini-lottery to be able to add another restaurant to our GF “safe” lists. Dining out does come with inherent risks, namely cross-contamination, and while I try to do my best to notify our server when I’m ordering, I don’t always remember. To be honest, sometimes it just gets exhausting to go through the whole explanation of how I am a celiac, and I really can’t have *any* gluten, and asking about shared fryers, and asking for substitutions for ingredients I can’t have that gluten-toxify an otherwise “safe” dish. Jay is always willing to step up and be my advocate and have these annoying conversations for me, and for that I am eternally grateful. And while he doesn’t have to eat gluten-free himself, when we dine together, he usually orders everything gluten-free so we can continue our sharing plates tradition. Thanks for keeping me safe love!
5. Provide extra support when your partner (or their bread) is deflated or their latest gluten-free recipe fails. Shortly after my celiac diagnosis, a concerned family member asked me, “What if Jay wants toast?!” You’ll be happy to know that Jay has not been toast-less since I’ve de-glutened our kitchen. If anything, the poor guy has been up to his eyeballs in toast, since I am hellbent on redefining the standard for gluten-free bread. From one of my first sad, failed, dense, “destined for breadcrumbs” loaf, to my latest, much more successful sorghum sourdough boules, Jay has been my biggest cheerleader. Together we’ve done a slew of market research, researched innovative ways to solve gluten-free baking problems, and learned a lot more about food science along the way. When I was frustrated that I couldn’t create a bubbling, chewy pizza crust in our home oven, Jay ordered a magical baking steel which has become an indispensable tool in our gluten-free pizza making arsenal. Surprise kitchen gifts like my Nerd Chef baking steel, that have arrived for no special occasion are small reminders of how much I am loved, and never fail to cheer me up.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!